Six of the 12 foster youth we helped escort to the recent D.C. Opportunity Fair left with on-the-spot job offers from major companies and, perhaps, more importantly, a new sense of pride.
The ones who didn’t get offered a job decided for a variety of reasons not to apply, but were at least exposed to the process, a true learning experience. The 12 foster children were all with the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. Three have court-appointed special advocates (CASAs).

“What a great day!” said Ann Marie Binsner, Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocate/Prince George’s County. “This will provide encouragement to our other foster youth that they, too, can get a job, a good one, as they transition to independent living.”

The D.C. fair was part of “The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative,” the largest employer-led coalition ever committed to providing pathways to employment for vulnerable youth, ages 16 to 24, who are neither in school or employed.

Begun in August 2015, the initiative has already connected with more than 100,000 young people with job fairs across the nation, including ones Chicago, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles. It targets foster youth and other young people who face systematic barriers to employment and education.

Nationwide, one in seven young adults do not work or attend school. The figures are much worse for those who age out of foster care. About half of them are unemployed, largely because about half of foster children drop out of high school.

Foster children with CASAs do far better. In fact, about 70 percent of our foster youth with a CASA graduate from high school. But a 30 percent dropout rate is still too high, complicating their efforts to find a job and stay out of poverty.

The 12 foster youth we helped bring to the fair were chaperoned by CASA Supervisor Phillip Lartigue and members of Prince George’s County Department of Social Services’ “Ready by 21 Unit.”

While six of these youth received job offers, several got multiple offers. They were made by such companies as Walmart, Macy’s, Starbucks and Ulta Beauty.

“This was an amazing experience for our youth,” Phillip said. “The exposure to the application and interview process was invaluable learning experience and provided them an opportunity to get their foot in the door at major corporations.”

“They were also able to look at other young people, many dressed in jacket and tie, and see how competitive the job market really is,” Phillip added. “Probably the best thing I heard was several of the youth saying afterward, ‘I am just so proud of myself.’”